How to Understand the New GCSE Scoring System

A Guide to Understanding the New GCSE Scoring System and How it Affects Teachers

With GCSE results being released you may be concerned about how the new GCSE scoring system will affect teachers. Teachers and supply teachers in London will have to adapt their teaching approach to match the new curriculum, and marking systems will be set to change; meaning marking criteria’s will also receive a new makeover. This may seem like a hard transition for both students and teachers , but hopefully – with time – we will see the benefits of this new scoring system.

Why this change?

30 years on from the GCSE system we’ve all grown to… understand, and now there’s quite a dramatic change – the main one being from alphabetic grading A*-G to numerical grading 9-1. What teachers in London really want to know is why.

In short, the idea behind this change in marking is to provide differentiation across students’ results – namely the top scoring students. The prediction is that fewer students will achieve grade 9 than current A* levels, with the statistics suggesting that 20% of students that gained an A-A* grade would now hold the equivalent grade 9.

How it affects teaching jobs

This will of course, mean an adjustment for any tutor, teacher or supply teacher and with the first results of this new system coming to fruition we can start to see the effects that it will have on classroom teaching. Some of the effects new GCSE scoring will have on teachers include:

  • Curriculum changes –

With the GCSE changes come more focus on exams and less on coursework. This puts demand on both teacher and student to perform for one final exam

Exam factories –

This is a growing criticism amongst teachers and implies that the new system is ‘teaching to test’.

  • New marking criteria –

Teachers will have to adjust their marking strategy to reflect the new grading system, with more focus on written communication. However, the curriculum has been said to push more creative application in the sense of thinking around the subject.

  • Differing grading systems –

Teaching in the middle of this transition means that teachers have to adapt to both the new system and the old, two different grading systems across year groups may cause confusion.

Effects on students

How the new system affects students is a different story.  Issues of mental health have come to light recently, with complaints about exam stress rising teachers have criticised the effects of such a large change in the curriculum. The new GCSEs are said to be purposefully more challenging with more content to be learned, from reports of high anxiety to panic attacks, pressure in the classroom has been amplified past usual exam stress.

Supply teaching in London

If you’re thinking of becoming a supply teacher in London and find it daunting searching for teaching jobs in London, especially considering the new GCSE syllabus, then you could benefit from the support of World Class Teachers. Our service makes finding teaching jobs in London easy, with various events and outlets to connect with other supply teachers in London you can discuss with others ways to handle the new GCSE systems.

Register and submit your CV online today to start your search. If you need any more information about our supply teaching jobs in London then please don’t hesitate to call us on 0208 579 4501. Alternatively, you can contact us online, request a call back, or email us at teach@worldclassteachers.co.uk for advice on any teaching jobs in London.

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Joe Hallgarten is co-founder of Global Arts Learning Action, and senior associate with the Innovation Unit and has recently joined the World Class team. His experience and contribution as an educator is second to none; here is a fascinating glimpse into his latest work in arts education and culture in Sierra Leone…

I got used to the noise, but never quite adjusted to the heat. Whilst, by the end of my too-short first-ever week in Freetown, I could happily navigate the madness of Lumley Junction, I was still sweating as much on day seven as on day one.

What was I doing hre? I’m the co-founder of Global Arts Learning Action. Our mission is to encourage and enable lower income countries to place arts learning at the heart of their education systems, and to mobilise the world’s educators and artists to support these endeavours. We believe that more, better learning through dance, film, literature, music and theatre can help to transform children’s life chances and give them the skills and qualities that will help them thrive. Art-rich learning can also nurture vibrant civil societies, where creativity and freedom of expression are valued. Unfortunately, arts education remains a very low priority in every education system in the world. Whilst the Sustainable Development Goals are galvanising education reforms in low-income countries, reforms are tending not to prioritise the arts in national curricula, assessments or in depictions of effective pedagogy. Whilst, given the extraordinary and immediate challenges that countries like Sierra Leone face in terms of pupil enrolment, teacher quality and, above all, literacy levels, this may not be surprising; but it may also be a missed opportunity. There is evidence from around the world that high quality arts learning can help address these very challenges.

I was invited to Sierra Leone by two school groups — Educaid and Rising Academies — to explore how our idea might work in a particular context. As well as meeting with teachers and pupils, I discussed our emerging plans with government officials and artists, entrepreneurs and politicians. It was clear from day one that education is an issue which Sierra Leone’s citizens care deeply about. On one day, newspapers led with stories of unpaid teachers. On another, headlines revealed accusations of exam board corruption. I had read about Sierra Leone’s low school completion rates, especially amongst girls, its high levels of illiteracy, and its chronic lack of education funding. But as I saw schools who creatively converted classrooms by day into dormitories by night for the most vulnerable children, or who only had ancient books and blackboards to work with, I far better understood the daily challenges that students and teachers face across Sierra Leone.

As well as encountering the generosity of so many people in Freetown, I was also heartened by the way people engaged with and offered critical insights to what is still a very half-formed idea. It’s so difficult to summarise all my thoughts, but here are three insights:

First, in terms of the arts and culture, Sierra Leone has a rich, impressive history to draw on, and a growing artistic talent base which could be harnessed to support schools. A strong tradition of making great theatre has been undermined by the civil war and Ebola. Visionaries such as Charlie Hafner are doing their best to sustain and grow these traditions, in difficult circumstances. Similarly, Ballanta Academy is keeping both traditional and modern music making alive amongst young people in Freetown. Many people I spoke to, including younger artists and filmmakers, were passionate about Sierra Leone reviving stronger expressions of its own cultural outputs, rather than accepting the increasing domination of Nigerian culture in particular. Global university Limkokwing has recently opened a new campus in Freetown, working with the government to provide scholarships for over a thousand students to study creative and IT-related degrees and diplomas. Everyone from the Minister of Culture to Esther, the young gospel singer I met outside the Ministry, saw the arts as fundamental to the regeneration of Sierra Leone, and to the ongoing quest to promote the civic values that provide the best insulation against any return to civil conflict. As renowned theatre academic and former Minister of Information Professor Cecil Blake asserted, ‘arts can be a powerful force for social change in Sierra Leone’.

Second, whilst resources and capacity are of course an issue in almost all schools in Sierra Leone, the biggest barrier may still be the curriculum and assessment systems. Although the arts is included in primary schools, assessed through the ‘creative and practical arts’ track at BECE/lower secondary, and an optional strand for the WAACE, the curriculum is in urgent need of an update. It favours knowledge and understanding — for instance, of types of animal hides — over the nurturing of any creative responses or expressions. Young people in Sierra Leone don’t lack curiosity — far from it. But at school, they tend to lack the space and encouragement to pursue this curiosity and express their ideas and emotions.

Third, both pupils and teachers are very keen to experience more arts learning opportunities in and out of school. Many teachers I met told me of the teachers whose arts teaching inspired them as pupils. They were also keen to tell me about their own artistic interests and talents — from rapping to poetry, drawing to dance. They were desperate to bring these interests into their teaching, so they could inspire pupils in similar ways. Teachers in Sierra Leone are widely criticised for old-fashioned methods and a lack of commitment, but the teachers I met were motivated and ready to learn and teach in different ways.

So I returned to the relative cool of London much more optimistic about the chances of success and impact in Sierra Leone. It seems that there is an appetite amongst both educators and artists for a new programme that builds on existing initiatives, is locally owned and encompasses curriculum innovation, teacher training, and new school-artist partnerships. Over the next few months, We’ll be talking to more people in and outside the country. We hope to return in December, having secured support from global foundations and companies, and work with local partners to co-design a programme that can start from 2018.

So imagine if, over the next generation, arts became central to all young Sierra Leonean’s lives, in and out of school. What might be the impact and benefits, for young people themselves and for Sierra Leone’s society? How might we get there? And how could you, as citizens, parents and educators, contribute? As one of Sierra Leone’s most successful musicians Emmerson said to me: ‘we artists are here, we are ready to help.’

Objectives then activities
As a teacher, it can be tempting to think of an activity and then base some learning around it. However, this could mean that you end up wasting time tasking your students with something that has no end goal. Instead, always start with a learning objective and then base an activity around this. That way you can always be sure that they are going to reach their goal.

Think about whether everyone needs a recap
Children are different, and they have different approaches to learning. You are likely to find that some will need a direct instruction in order to get a task completed, whereas others can work alone or in groups. During the lesson you may need to give a recap of the learning or what is expected, however, you may find that this is only necessary for some of the children, rather than all of the children.
Decrease the distractions
Distractions, in whatever form they come in can be harmful to lessons. What you may not realise however is that you may be the one causing the distractions. Sometimes you will need some additions to your standard approach to teaching, but all the flashy extras may end up distracting your students rather than helping them.
Structure your lessons well
One way that you can make the most of your lesson time is to structure it as best you can. Of course, no two lessons are the same, but you will have a rough idea of how a lesson is best organised. A great way to get a lesson underway is start with an activity that is linked to the previous lessons learning. Not only does this get the students focused on working, but also encourages them to think about their previous learning.
Think about lessons as a sequence 
Whilst lessons are separate in the sense of time, they often follow each other in a sequence, with the learning linked. If your aim is to guide students towards an end learning goal, then you will want to make sure that lessons are ordered in a logical way. Not only so that they make sense, but also so you can pick up on any gaps in learning that you have noticed.
Be prepared
There is so much that can be said for being prepared. In fact, teachers can soon learn that a large chunk of their time is taken up, simply by not preparing properly for a lesson. They should have all their resources out and ready on the tables, or at least be prepared to hand them out as soon as the students take their seats. They should also have stationary to hand, the whiteboards premade and any websites that will be used ready to go.
 Structure a routine
The best friend of being prepared has to be the routine. Routine’s offer a consistent approach to lessons, and makes sure that students know what is expected of them, as well as what to expect. Routines can come in the form of passing around lesson material, entering the classroom and leaving the classroom too.
Provide written instructions
Written instructions are important to a lesson, no matter whether they are printed out or on the board. They offer the students something to refer back to, when they need it, meaning that you minimise the time spent re-explaining things and clarifying what they need to do.
Manage negative behaviour
One of the main causes of wasted behaviour for many schools is negative behaviour from students. There are a number of ways that you can manage this negative behaviour and it really will depend on the age of your students, as well as the students misbehaving too. Sometimes all you need is to let them know that you have noticed their behaviour perhaps with non-verbal communication.
Pay attention during the class for feedback
How often do you monitor the work that is being done by your students? Chances are that it isn’t as much as you should. Lesson time is often wasted when a child hasn’t understood the task and is getting things wrong. It may seem like it would take more time to go around and ensure that every student understands what they need to do, but the truth is that this can be beneficial for the students and for their learning. You can tackle issues as they pop up, and challenge students that are finding the work too easy.


No matter which way you go about it, it is important that you try your best to make every minute count in your lesson. Do you have any additional tips for maximising learning in the classroom? Comment below or find us on Facebook or Twitter.

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